Suffering from gas pains

How much do you spend to fill up your family vehicle? If you're like Sandra, you probably feel like it's too much

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“Seventy dollars,” Matt announced grimly, climing back into the driver’s seat. We were on our way home from an outing with the girls, and our gas gauge needle wobbled precariously over the “E”. We needed a fill-up, and badly, so Matt pulled into one of our regular gas stations near home.

Last year we made a conscious decision to become a one-car family. The timing was perfect: Matt was moving on from his previous job, which came with a company vehicle (for which he was charged on personal use — meaning, anytime we used it for us, and not for Matt’s job, he had to pay); and the lease on our glitchy minivan was about to come to an end.

We decided to research which vehicles matched our need for passenger (four of us, plus the occasional friend or grandparent) and storage space (three large plastic resuable grocery bins), that guzzled less gas than our old vehicle, and that we felt safe in but was still affordable.

For us, the Subaru Forester ticked all the boxes. Even with all-wheel drive, it’s relatively fuel-efficient. Still: The fill-ups are killing us!

We’d considered alternatives, including the hybrid Ford Escape. It was a lot more money. Plus, our research showed that hybrids are best for people who do most of their driving in town, amid stop-and-go traffic, because those are the conditions that allow the vehicle to be powered by its battery more frequently than the gas engine. Matt does quite a few highway drives for work, so he probably wouldn’t use much less gas with a hybrid vehicle.

We also considered a diesel-powered car. We both like Volkswagens, which offer most models with a diesel engine. And as a recent article from the Globe and Mail notes, diesel is much more efficient than regular gas because it contains more energy by volume than regular gas. Meaning, fewer fill-ups.

But here’s the problem. We couldn’t think of a single diesel gas station near our home. Plus, as the Globe article points out, diesel is taxed at the same level as regular gas, despite being more efficient.

Given our big gasoline bills, I’m not entirely convinced we made the right call in not going diesel.

What are your thoughts? Is a diesel-powered vehicle practical for most families right now?